The general rules
Employers who are forced to send workers into temporary unemployment can use the temporary unemployment system for reasons of force majeure. The responsible authority is the Landesamt fÃ¼r Arbeitsbeschaffung [State Employment Office] (LfA), but the payment of the benefit is left to the paying agencies: the trade union or the unemployment assistance payment agency.
Before the Corona crisis, a strict distinction was made between total and partial closure, as well as between economic unemployment and unemployment due to force majeure. This strict distinction has been removed in both cases. In many situations, it will therefore be sufficient to file a claim for temporary unemployment due to force majeure. The employer then only has to give the Coronavirus as the reason.
As mentioned above, the procedure for applying for temporary unemployment itself has also been simplified. Employers only need to submit a form containing the information necessary for the calculation and payment of the benefit. The hours of temporary unemployment during the month in question must be entered on this form. This declaration is then automatically forwarded to the paying agency.
It is then up to the workers to submit a benefit claim to the paying agency using a simplified form on which the date of the benefit claim, their account number and their identification details must be indicated. This can be the trade union to which the workers are affiliated or the unemployment benefits Hilfszahlstelle [auxiliary paying agency].
Once the paying agency has both forms, it can start paying the benefit.
Workers receive temporary unemployment benefits amounting to 70% of the average salary (maximum 2,754.76 euros per month), previously it was only 65% of the salary. Depending on the type of temporary unemployment, i.e. economic unemployment or temporary unemployment due to force majeure, workers receive a supplement per day of the temporary unemployment. Everyone who becomes temporarily unemployed also receives a subsidy of 206.68 euros from the government as a contribution to the water and energy bill.
This facilitated access to temporary unemployment is provisionally valid until 30 September.
The cross-border situation
The situation described above contains the general rules for temporary unemployment that apply to workers resident in Belgium who are employed by a Belgian company and to whom the Belgian social security system applies. Of course, the question now arises as to whether or not other rules apply in a cross-border situation. Unfortunately, in some cases this question must be answered in the affirmative.
For cross-border workers who are, for example, residents of the Netherlands and are employed by a Belgian company and covered by social security in Belgium, no problems arise. Employers can also apply for temporary unemployment for these Dutch cross-border workers. Also, in the case of a Dutch company that has employees covered by social security in Belgium, this Dutch company can apply for temporary unemployment for the employees covered by social security in Belgium. These are the situations where no problems arise.
Problems do arise, however, when Dutch cross-border workers are not socially insured in Belgium but, for example, in their country of residence. The FAQ published on the LfA website shows that a person who is affiliated with a foreign social security scheme is generally not entitled to temporary unemployment benefits. This is in line with the principle that the country collecting the social security contributions is also responsible for paying the benefits. It follows that a Belgian company cannot put its employees on temporary unemployment who are covered by social security in the Netherlands.
Generally, this foreign company can apply for aid from the Netherlands for its employees who are socially insured in the Netherlands. The Dutch emergency measure â€œOverbrugging voor Behoud van Werkgelegenheidâ€ [Bridging for Employment Preservation] (NOW) also applies to foreign companies that employ workers covered by social security in the Netherlands and who pay social security contributions in the Netherlands.
Here, as in Belgium, the principle is observed that benefits are paid by the country that receives the contributions. However, the wages of workers not covered by social security in the Netherlands are not included in the calculation of the wage total for which the benefit is paid. It is not yet possible to estimate how the decrease in turnover will be taken into account in this situation. Further information on the NOW is available here>>
- Current information on temporary unemployment is provided by the Landesamt fÃ¼r Arbeitsbeschaffung [State Employment Office] (LfA / RVA/ONEM) on their website. Here you can find the Information>>
- Further information on the ACV labour union is available here>>
- Further information on the ABVV labour union is available here>>
- Further information on the ACLVB labour union is available here>>
Energy bill subsidy from the Flemish government
The Flemish government has introduced a one-off water and energy subsidy of 202.68 euros. This is intended for workers who are temporarily unemployed due to force majeure or for economic reasons. Cross-border workers can also apply for this subsidy.
Information (in Dutch) on the application procedure can be found on the Vlaamse Overheid website
Click on â€œWater- en engergievergoeding bij tijdelijke werkloosheid door Covid 19â€ [Water and energy allowance in case of temporary unemployment due to Covid 19] and then select â€œHoe gebeurt de uitbetalingâ€ [How is the payment made]. Here you will find the â€œOverzicht van de prcedures voor betalingâ€ [Overview of procedures for payment]. Cross-border workers who work in Belgium and have become temporarily unemployed belong to category 3 (â€œGedomicilieerd in een land van de EU, EER of Zwitserlandâ€ [Domiciled in a country of the EU, EEA or Switzerland]).
The application can only be made via an online declaration form and you can only register either with a Belgian EID – which you have if you have Belgian nationality – or with a digital key. You have to apply for this at a registration office ( registratiekantoor) in the designated municipality.
Cross-border workers who work in Belgium can request a digital key as follows:
- Submit an application to one of the competent Belgian municipalities.
- As the applicant, you will then receive two e-mails: one e-mail with the activation code and one e-mail to activate the digital key (comes from CSAM). In the latter e-mail, you can click on an icon. You will then be taken to a website where you have to enter the activation code (from the first e-mail).
- Then you have to choose a preferred language and specify how you want to use the digital key (4 options possible). After completing this registration, an e-mail from CSAM will follow confirming the registration and activation.
You can then use all applications such as â€œMy pensionâ€, â€œThe tax on the internetâ€, but also the application for the Flemish energy subsidy.
Here you will find the link with the described procedure and an overview of the registration offices you can contact.
You can choose a registration office of a municipality and in principle request the activation code, for example by post, without having to move. Itâ€™s just a question of how the municipality handles it.
The information was provided to us by the Belgian labour union ACV Cross-border workers.